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  1. The antecedents of employee engagement



    1. Critically evaluate the contention that performance management is subject to an inherent tension between management requirements to both control and develop their workforce.

    2. Critically review the antecedents of employee engagement and explore the contention that employee engagement has a “dark side”.

    3. Critically analyse the concepts of employer and employee branding and review the advantages and disadvantages of such branding within recruitment and retention.



Subject Business Pages 12 Style APA


Critically review the antecedents of employee engagement and explore the contention that employee engagement has a “dark side”.

Human resource management focuses on utilizing the available labour force in the most appropriate way to guarantee organizational success.  Human resource practitioners leverage the use of vital people management best practices, such as employee engagement, to achieve the noble objective. Qi (2020) defines employee engagement as the creation of emotional commitment among employees to the organization and the goals the organization intends to achieve (535).  Employee engagement currently maintains center stage in most human resource discussions and is seen as one of the best ways of improving employee performance.  Highly engaged employees do register improved performance and are also less likely to leave the company. However, although effective and widely acclaimed as a sure way of boosting performance, employee engagement has a dark side that human resource managers should keep in mind while engaging their employees.  This study will, therefore, look at the threat employee engagement pose the success of companies

Review of literature

Adopting the Status Quo

Human resource managers strive to hire the best employees from the labour market, retain them in the organization, and motivate them to deliver beyond expectations. Sheikh, Christina and Sharina (2020) contends that modern human resource managers leverage the use of employee engagement as a mechanism to reduce their level of employee turnover and boost performance (237). However, although effective Alkahtani et al. (2020) opines that employee engagement only produces results up to a certain point beyond which it starts becoming counterproductive (1110). Alkahtani et al. (2020) established that high employee engagement levels promote the adoption of the status quo among employees (1111). The organization’s employees will be satisfied with the way the organization operates, thus leaving room for little innovation or creation of new ideas. This factor ultimately reduces the company’s performance in relation to that of its competitors in the market.

Malinowska and Tokarz (2020) opine that employees who are satisfied with their performance stop trying to get better (153). Malinowska and Tokarz (2020) further assert that the complacency that steps in as a result of the satisfaction employees have with their performance level stems directly from high levels of employees’ engagement (153).  The business world is competitive and keeps changing.  Therefore, the complacency stemming from employees’ engagement is a serious threat to the performance of the organization. Employee engagement results in a high level of employee satisfaction with the work they are doing.  Such satisfaction   creates an environment where employees embrace the status quo, creating complacency and failing to improve performance.

Furthermore, Qi (2020) contends that employees who are content with their performance level often stop trying to improve themselves (536). On the other hand, frustrated employees are dissatisfied with their performance and intrinsically incentivized to find better ways of improving their performance in the organization.  Therefore, high levels of employee engagement eliminate their internal drive to better their best performance as it makes them contented, creating an atmosphere for embracing the status quo.

Employee Burnout

According to Steffens et al. (2018), highly engaged employees are often highly involved in their jobs (374).  Successful implementation of various employee engagement strategies yields a workforce that is emotionally invested in the organization’s goals.  Steffens et al. (2018) assert that such fixation into the organization’s success is beneficial for the organization when supplied in moderation (375). However, when employees are highly engaged to the point they spend most of their time working or thinking about work, the results become counterproductive.  Anthony et al. (2017) assert that human resource managers should ensure their employees do not become workaholics as that causes burnout, which ultimately reduces their on-job performance (164).

High levels of employee engagement create workaholics who stop focusing on other important facets of their lives (Anthony et al., 2017, p.167).  Employees need to be whole rounded in order to deliver in tasks assigned to them effectively.  Employees should have an optimal and workable balance between their job and family lives.  Taris, Ybema and Beek (2017), in their study, established that highly engaged employees spent most of their time working, a factor that negatively affected their family lives (4). The employees carried work home and did not have meaningful family lives, leading to marital problems that ultimately ended in divorce. Such family problems interfere with employees’ ability to concentrate, thus reducing their level of performance.

Highly engaged employees also often overlook their well-being (Upadyaya,  Vartiainen & Salmela-Aro 2016, p.102).   Bethea and Samanta (2020) assert that the employees are fixated on their work and forget to take part in crucial activities such as exercising, which affects their health (200). Organizations involved in such high levels of employee engagement affect the health of their employees and compromise their long-term performance.  Taris, Ybema and Beek (2017) further state that such practices result in short term improvement of the level of performance but significantly reduces long term performance (10). Employees suffering from medical conditions such a burnout and fatigue become a liability in the long run.

Undermining Negative Thinking

Human resource managers should adopt a balanced view of employee engagement.  According to Qi (2020), employee engagement is becoming counterproductive due to the adoption of unrealistic ideologies by managers in making their employees happy (537).  Happy employees often have a positive mindset. However, Choudhary et al. (2017) also assert that a negative mindset also creates attention and focus among the organization (189). Human resource managers treat employee engagement as the need to improve employees’ mood, thus making them happy and more inclined to deliver.  Such managers’ understanding of employee engagement as the promotion of happiness among employees is simplistic and stifles the power of negative thinking in the organization.

Choudhary et al. (2017) in their study found out that people with a negative mood are often more persistent. The persistence often stems from their desire to prove a point (190). Eldor (2018) also asserts that employees who are subjected to a moderate amount of stress tend to be focused are driven to archive the targets set for them (86).  human resource managers should, therefore, adopt the power of negative thinking in organizations to boost performance.  The current view on employee engagement stifles most forms of negative thoughts, thus eliminating the performance benefits steaming from negative thinking in organizations.

Human resource managers should strive to find the correct balance in their employee engagement efforts to support both positive and negative thinking in organizations. Du, Zhang and Tekleab (2018) assert that the managers should have the ability to create an optimal level of tension in the organization to spur negative thinking among the employees (214).  Tensions promote negative thinking, thus resulting in negative pessimists among the employees.  Jones (2017) asserts the negative pessimists’ expectations of the worst often drives them to work hard in order to improve what they perceive to the expected poor outcomes of the tasks they are performing (180). 

Disservice to Certain Personality Types

Mróz and Kaleta (2016) assert that the level of employee engagement depends not only on the organization’s situations but also on the personality types of the employees hired by the organization (768). Just like motivation, employees respond differently to engagement. Some employees respond well to intrinsic motivation, while others respond adequately to extrinsic motivation. Moreover, there are those who respond to a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivation.  Similarly, Alabood and Sulphey (2020) assert that all the organization’s employees respond differently to engagement (365). The difference in response stems from two factors; that is their personality and the situation at hand, such as the tasks they are working on.

Situation at Hand. The situation of an employee plays an integral role in influencing their level of engagement. Employees’ engagement among other reasons seek to increase the performance of the employees. Such increases in performance cumulatively result in an increase of the performance of the organization. According to Alabood and Sulphey (2020) increase in performance as a result of employee engagement varies depending on the tasks the employees are handling (365).  Employees handling low-level jobs that require little effort to execute register increased performance with a moderate level of engagement.  However, Alabood and Sulphey (2020) further asserts that employees performance increase only up to a certain point and starts reducing due to factors such as burnout as they try to overexert themselves in the delivery of their service (366). On the other hand, employees who perform highly technical jobs   perform poorly under high level of employee engagement. The nature of jobs done by the employees requires a moderate level of frustration in order to spur creativity that delivers results. Alabood and Sulphey (2020) opine that challenges and frustrations make technical employees think of ways to come up with solutions to the tasks they are doing (368).   Therefore, a high level of engagement for such employees reduces their level of creativity, thus affecting their performance.

Personality of employees. Employees personality also affects their response to engagement efforts from the human resource department.  There are employees whose personalities makes them thrive in environments that promotes high levels of employee engagement while there are others whose personality makes them unable to cope in such environments and also reduces their performance. Mróz and Kaleta (2016) assert that employees who are optimistic, agreeable, extraverted, and have emotional stability often thrive in environment that promotes high level of employee engagement (769). Their personalities set them up for survival in such environments. On the other hand, Mróz and Kaleta (2016) further opine that employees who are introverted, moody, and pessimistic cannot easily thrive in an organization that overemphasizes employee engagement (770). Such employees would, therefore, register reduced performance in such organizations.  Mróz and Kaleta (2016) therefore, postulates that organizations should understand the correlation between personality and employee engagement lest they unknowingly reduce their performance through implementing sweeping employee engagement measures (780).

O’Connor and Crowley-Henry (2019) also allude to the benefit context plays in employee engagement driven performance (903).  Managers should strive to understand the employees they have, the nature of their tasks, and their personality types. Organizations that prefer leveraging the use of employee engagement to boot performance run the risk of achieving the opposite result if they do not consider the context in which they are operating.   Employee engagement in such circumstances can, therefore, result in offering certain employees’ undue advantage in the organization.  Such employees will register high results while their counterparts whose personality or job types suffer under increased employee engagement can be seen as poor performers.

Premise of Employee Engagement

According to Rafiq et al. (2019), employee engagement and the resultant conversations that comes with its such as employee happiness and well-being on the face values, can show that organizations care about their employees (615).  However, as Rafiq et al. (2019) assert, companies only engage in conversations about employee engagement because of the desire to boosts performance and reduce their employees’ rate of attrition (616).  This therefore shows organizations only engage in employee engagement for selfish reasons and not for the love they have for their employees.  Human capital is a vital factor of production without which businesses cannot operate in the market. However, despite their importance, companies’ interaction with them is governed by greed and the desire for more profits.

 The well-being of employees should be a pertinent concern for employers in the market.  However, employers support for employee engagement is not motivated by their innate desire for the well-being of their employees but for the advantages such measures accord their organizations. The premise of engagement is, therefore, one that hoodwinks employees into believing that their employers value them. However, in reality, it is a tool used by the human resource departments to lie to employees and channel their skills towards the benefit of the organization. Rafiq et al. (2019) opine that the motive of employee engagement is a dark one for employees as it is a guise used by employers to serve the interest of the company and not of the employees (620).   Therefore, the concern for the well-being of the employees is, therefore, artificial as is pegged on the benefits the organization can reap and not the appreciation of the important role employees play for an organization to achieve its goals.

Engagement and Performance are not linear.

Organizations, especially those in the market to make profits often exploit methods of increasing their performance.  The association between employee engagement and performance has made human resource managers over leverage its use to improve productivity (Chahar & Hatwal, 2018 p.3). Just like other things in life, too much engagement is harmful to the performance of the organization.  Human resource managers assume that employee engagement and performance have a linear relationship. Even though employee engagement increases performance, the relationship is not linear.  It does not mean that the more engaged employees are, the more productive they become.  In fact, Chahar and Hatwal (2018) argue that employee engagement results in increased productivity when used moderately (4).

Employee engagement is vital for spurring performance in the organization. However, it should be in moderation.  A complete absence of employee engagement causes disinterest among employees in the affairs of the organization. Such disinterest causes a reduction in the level of performance.  On the other hand, excessive use of employee engagement in an organization creates an environment where employees are too happy and without any sense of urgency. Consequently, such employees become too acquainted, a factor that kills the competitive spirit among the employees, thus reducing their need to get ahead.  In return, the organization suffers from reduced performance in such situations.  Chahar and Hatwal (2018), therefore, opines that is imperative for human resource managers to understand that employee engagement and performance do not have a linear relationship and that a high level of engagement only serves to reduce the level of productivity (3).

Engagement and Performance Link

Managers leverage the use of employee engagement to improve performance in the organization. However, Bal and De Lange, (2015) asserts the correlation between engagement and performance is widely misunderstood (126).  Such misunderstandings lead to the belief that engagement and performance have a linear relationship, a notion that leads to high level of employee engagement which turns out to be counterproductive. Employee engagement and performance have a reverse link that managers should exploit.  Human resource managers should strive to increase employees’ performance through   various methods such as setting targets and motivation. Carter (2018) further asserts that increased performance, makes employees happy and automatically increases their level of engagement in the organization (283). 

Employees who meet their targets enjoy their work and become deeply engaged in the work they do. Managers should therefore endeavor to understand the reverse link that exist between   performance and employees’ level of engagement.  Employees who constantly register low performance should be motivated through both intrinsic and extrinsic methods to boost their performance. Achieving target gives one a sense of accomplishment, confidence and the zeal to do more and, therefore, increases employee engagement.


Employee engagement is widely seen as a method of improving performance and reducing the rate of employee turnover in organizations. However, regardless of its perceived benefits, employee engagement has a dark side that managers need to understand. First, it creates complacency in the organization, thus increasing the risk of having stagnant performance as employees are comfortable with the status quo.  Secondly, employee engagement and performance do not have a linear relationship as high level of engagement leads to reduced performance. Also, the premise of employee engagement is to benefit the employer and not the employees’ well-being.  Furthermore, employee engagement promotes positive thinking and kills negative thinking in the organization. Also, employee engagement reduces the level of performance of employees whose personality make it difficult to cope in environment with high level of employee engagement.





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